Mobilize March -- Travel Blog

Day 44 — Calm before the storm

This is going to be a very short post so I can get to bed at a reasonable time. The rain was still coming down today in Ottawa–does this place ever get sunshine? I swear I haven’t seen an ounce of sunshine since entering the city. Oh well, the weather was sour but it provided an excellent opportunity to swing by the War Museum down by the Parliament Buildings. There are some pretty incredible exhibits, I was totally in awe of the tanks, but one exhibit that really spoke to me was on genetic hygiene (also known as ‘eugenics’) in World War 2. The exhibit was about how medical science conspired with the Nazis to “purify” Germany of unwanted genetic traits (including, but not limited to, disability). It was a really tough exhibit to get through, especially when looking at the photographs of some of the young children who had been put to death because of their genetic “impurities.” What was so terrifying is some of the photos were horrifically similar to photos I can remember being taken of me in hospitals when I was a child. It’s a curious fact, one that many don’t know, that the Holocaust actually first began with the disabled. In fact, the gas chambers the Nazi’s used to commit genocide against the Jewish population were first tested on the disabled (including alcoholics and criminals, traits considered “disabilities” by the Nazis) to make sure the systems would for their sadistic plan to exterminate the Jews. For me, this exhibit brought up the whole idea of “euthanasia” and now in modern times we still have eugenicists and other individuals who advocate euthanasia for the “severely” disabled. The tricky part about all this though is we are then forced to question what an acceptable “quality of life” is–where do you draw the line? I feel I live a pretty great life but to some my “disability” could be so invasive that they would feel they would have no “quality of life” if they were in my situation. It just made me feel really vulnerable seeing how easy it was for a society to begin actively eliminating the disabled. Granted, times have “changed” but it’s horrifying that not only was there little effort to stop this from happening (it began long before they began sending the Jews, Roma and Homosexuals to camps) and to this day few people know the disabled were included in the group of people selected for extermination by the Nazis. It is because of historical events like this that we must always be vigilant and defend those who cannot defend themselves!

Tomorrow is a big day so I should head out. We’re meeting up at the Rideau Centre at 2:30pm to march to City Hall in time for the Joint Transit Meeting at 3:00pm. Hopefully the weather is a bit nicer out! Low and behold, I’m heading back out on the road!
More to come tomorrow,

– Jeff

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.